We’ve all seen it, the infographic shared by one of your friends discussing the so called “rape epidemic” plaguing the United States. Some claim one in five women will be sexually assaulted during their stay in college while others throw around the term “rape culture” and cite various everyday occurrences as their proof of the phenomenon. Seeing these brings alarm to nearly anyone reading them, resulting in massive amounts of shares and the post being spread like wildfire throughout multiple social media sources. How true are these claims though? Is America really plagued by a “rape culture?”
Lets start with where the one in five claim came from – a survey conducted by the United States Department of Justice in 2007. This questionnaire, donned the “Campus Sexual Assault study,” was an online survey with participants from two universities in the United States. Of these two universities, 5,446 women participated(each of whom received a $10 amazon gift card — woo!) in the survey, a relatively low response rate according to the DOJ. The survey was also vaguely worded and participates were never directly asked if they were raped or sexually assaulted — that was purely determined by if the participants responses sounded like sexual assault. To summarize, the survey was only conducted in 2 of America’s hundreds of thousands of colleges and respondents never directly stated they were sexually assaulted — anyone with half a brain could conclude this survey isn’t the best piece of information.
So what is the real rate? According the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Criminal Victimization publication in 2012 the rape and sexual assault rate was roughly 1.3 in 1,000 — not even close to the one in five number. Of course not all rapes are reported so we have to take those in account. While it is impossible to measure things that aren’t reported there are still some estimates out there. As of the time this article was posted the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network(RAINN) stated that 68%, roughly two-thirds, of sexual assaults and rapes go unreported. Taking into account the rape and sexual assault rate moves up to about 4 in 1,000. While 4 in 1,000 is four too many, it definitely does not come close to the heavily popularized 1 in 5 figure.
Now we’re not going to tell you the people who spread the misinformation about sexual assault in the U.S. are always liars, but please do some independent before you retweet the next rape culture infographic you see.